Since Will Muschamp’s staff came aboard with South Carolina football, the coaches kept promising to get Bryson Allen-Williams in on pass rushing.
But it didn’t come to pass quickly.
The former four-star recruit had bounced between end and linebacker his first two years, seeing the field sparingly. As a junior, he was mostly a linebacker, sliding to the Buck pass rushing position in extreme passing situations.
But 2017 is a new season, and against Missouri last week, he got a whole lot of work on the edge.
“I spent the whole game at Buck,” Allen-Williams said. “Me, Dennis (Wonnum), we kind of rotated series with the ends. Like I said, I was able to get after the quarterback, get some hits on him.”
Facing the Tigers’ spread attack, the Gamecocks went to a defensive package they debuted this season. Instead of taking a linebacker off the field when adding a fifth defensive back, they removed one defensive lineman.
That left Allen-Williams in a spot to play a fair amount of defensive end, standing up or with a hand on the ground, sometimes going in for Wonnum and sometimes sharing the field with him, giving USC a pair of mobile pass rushers.
It was something the team showed in passing situations against N.C. State. Against the Tigers, USC used it all game.
“It allows us to do a lot,” Allen-Williams said. “Moving me around and moving some other guys around, moving Dennis to end, either Dante (Sawyer) or Dennis at end, having me and Dennis, two guys that can get upfield, use speed to power to get to the quarterback.
“It’s kind of hard because you can’t slide both ways. If they slide to both of us, inside you’ve got Taylor (Stallworth) and Dante, it’s a very versatile package we have.”
Allen-Williams played 52 of his team’s 69 defensive snaps and made a range of big plays.
He had a third-down hit that forced and incompletion, a hurry on the second-to-last play and a tackle for loss that put the Tigers behind the chains on an early drive.
He also got his third interception in four games as he played in the flat and ended up dropping deeper to pick off a tipped pass on a scramble.
The chance to use him in those different ways has allowed for subtle shifts in how USC plays defense.
“I think it’s hard for an offense to count him,” Gamecocks coach Will Muschamp said. “As far as if he’s an outside linebacker or he’s a defensive end. He has pass rush ability. He also plays extremely well in space. That’s something we really worked on as far as expanding his role as we got into the summer and realized that Skai Moore and T.J. Brunson and Bryson Allen-Williams were going to be three of our better players. We needed to get all of them on the field at the same time as much as we can. So with that being said, we came up with some different things we haven’t necessarily done defensively.”
The coach said that comes down to developing schemes to fit players and accentuating their strengths.
A season ago, the Gamecocks relied heavily on their nickel package, mostly having Allen-Williams rotate with a pair of other linebackers at two spots.
N.C. State is on the less spread side of things, but USC still allowed Allen-Williams a decent amount of work as a third linebacker when the Wolfpack played three receivers.
That’s because in addition to pinning his ears back, as he did often coming up, Allen-Williams has developed into a solid player in space, and can go out into the flats.
It’s opened up a whole lot more his final season.
“I feel like, my first year, I played end, I played Buck, we called it Bob back then. I focused on really rushing the passer,” Allen-Williams said. “In my last two years, especially coach (Coleman) Hutzler, they really just taught me a couple of things, a couple of keys and really focusing on having my eyes in the right spot. Putting your eyes in the right spot really takes you to a lot of plays.”